WordPress Technical SEO is very important as Search Engine Optimization is the foundation of digital marketing. In today’s market where everyone is online, and companies battle it out for customer’s attention, having great SEO is the best way to ensure that your messaging and content can reach your audience.
SEO breaks down into 3 overarching categories:
- Technical SEO: focuses on optimizing the technical side of your website so that it can be easily and efficiently crawled and indexed by Google.
- On-page SEO: focuses on optimizing page content so that you can improve your rankings for those specific pages.
- Off-page SEO: focuses on optimizing your backlinks so you can build authority for your brand and your content (which helps your rankings)
In this article, you’ll learn how to leverage Technical SEO to optimize your WordPress website. We’ll cover a variety of best practices and some tactics and tools you can use to get your website SEO friendly in no time. Let’s start off with a review of some SEO basics and frequently used terminology.
Some SEO Basics and Terminology
When we think about how Google operates, it’s best to look at it as a matching game. When a user searches for something, Google looks at specific keywords(words and phrases) inside their search, as well as their overall search intent (what they are trying to accomplish with their search) and tries its best to match the results using content online.
In SEO, you are trying to make sure that your content is the best match for the types of searches (keywords and intent) that your target audience googles. Ultimately, the more your content shows up when a user searches online, the more likely they are to trust you, and eventually purchase from you.
Technical SEO deals with the most essential aspects of SEO. In order for your webpages to show up in the Google search results, Google needs to be able to crawl and index your site.
- Crawling refers to Google’s ability to access your website, and all the content in it.
- Indexing refers to Google’s ability to collect information about your web page so it can display that page when the content matches people’s searches.
Technical SEO also helps improve your page ranking (wherein the search results in your page shows up), by improving things like site speed, website structure, URL structure, and other factors that affect how high Google ranks your page.
Keep in mind that the best way to optimize is for your customers first, and search engines after. At the end of the day, the site that is easiest to navigate for your customers will be the site to win, so make sure you always keep them at the forefront of your mind.
Now that you know a bit more about Technical SEO, let’s dive into optimizing your website!
Getting Set Up
Download and Install Yoast SEO
Yoast SEO is an essential tool in your arsenal. This free WordPress plug-in has all the necessary attributions to help you keep track of on-page, off-page, and technical SEO matters. You can download the Plugin Yoast SEO from here; you do have the option to purchase the premium version, but the free version should be enough to optimize the settings we will talk about today.
*Action Item: Install Yoast SEO on your WordPress site *
Get Set Up with Google Search Console
After you have Yoast connected, your next step is to get set up inside the Google Search Console.
Google Search Console is another essential tool in your SEO toolbelt. This tool helps you monitor, maintain, and troubleshoot your site’s performance in the SERP’s (Search Engine Results Page).
Google has a ton of helpful guides on how to set up your Search Console Account. You can follow one here to get set up.
*Action Item: Set up your account and link your website with Google Search Console *
You’ll also want to link your Yoast SEO account with your Google Search Console account. You can do that inside Yoast under Search Console:
Yoast gives you instructions on how to connect them
*Action Item: Connect Yoast and your Search Console account *
Optimizing Your WordPress Site
Create a Clear Site Hierarchy
One of the easiest ways you can boost your technical SEO is by practicing good site architecture. The clearer your site structure is, the easier it will be for Google bots to crawl and index your website.
One practice SEO masters use to keep their website navigation clear is creating a site map or site hierarchy. These are guides to help you keep track of all the different content on your website.
This is an example of a site map template using excel. As you can see, each page has a column for the “Page Type”, “Page Name”, “Keywords”, and “Title Tag” data (this data pertains more to on-page SEO, so we will cover that information in other Playbooks).
What’s important to look at now is the “Location” column.
The “Location” column notates where the page lives in relation to the other pages around it. You’ll notice that subpages have the same base number as the parent page, and they count up. For example, page #3 has 4 subpages (3.1, 3.2, 3.3 and 3.4). All the pages live under your homepage, which is always location 0.
Take a look at Page #7, the blog home page. You’ll notice that the blog has a few page categories (7.1, 7.2, 7.3). Each post inside that category adds another number onto the end and counts up from there. (7.1 counts up starting at 7.11, while 7.2 counts up starting at 7.21.) This helps denote areas where there are 2 pages on the same category that both have subpages.
Alternatively, you can also create a flowchart for your site structure, like this example from Neil Patel…
This is a more visual option for people who prefer to look at charts instead of spreadsheets.
You’ll want to build out a site structure that works best for you and helps you keep track of the layout of your website.
*Action Item: Build out your site map*
After putting together your site map take a look at the content and think about these questions.
- Does your content flow in a consistent way?
- Do you have logical categories for any blog content?
- Are there any holes in your site map? Questions that aren’t answered, or key pages that are missing (About me, Pricing pages, etc.…)
*Action Item: Audit your sitemap and take note of any changes you want to make to your site structure *
Remember: If you decide to change any pages, you will need to redirect the URLs for that page.
Next, let’s look at how we can make sure Google is crawling only the content we want.
Check your Robots.txt file
A robots.txt file is a file on your site that tells Google bots what content they can and cannot crawl and index.
You can find your robots.txt file by searching “YOUR DOMAIN NAME/robots.txt” in Google. A page like this should show up…
Let’s review what this page is telling google bots:
- User-Agent: * says that all of the following rules on this file apply to all google bots
- Disallow:/wp-admin/ says that all bots are not allowed to crawl or index any pages that include /wp-admin/ in the URL. This is included so google doesn’t rank the back end of your WordPress site (where your login and make changes to your site)
- Allow: /wp-admin/admin-ajax.php allows bots to crawl pages from that URL. This is so that certain page formatting instructions can be followed by bots.
Your robots.txt file should look like this at a minimum. Here are some things you should check for on your own file:
- Do you have a robots.txt? If not, you should get one! Talk to your web developer or whoever build your site about getting one (you can learn more about building a robots.txt file here)
- Do you have any disallow directives that you don’t recognize? If so, you may want to talk to your web developer and ask why it is there. Content that is disallowed will not rank in Google.
- Look out for “Disallow: / “. If this instruction is here, it is preventing all bots from crawling your site. No crawling means no ranking!
*Action Item: Check your robots.txt file *
Submit Your Sitemap to Google Search Console
Sitemaps are an important tool for Search Engines. You will want to make sure you submit a sitemap to your Search Console account.
You can get a copy of your sitemap from Yoast. Inside your WordPress account, navigate to the SEO tab and the general section.
You should see a Features tab…
Inside there is a Feature called XML sitemaps. You’ll want to click on the question mark, and then the link that says “See the XML Sitemap”
That should take you to a page that lists all your sitemaps
You’ll want to make sure that the url for that page (it’s usually your domain/sitemap_index.xml) is submitted inside Google Search Console under Sitemaps
Action Item: Submit your Sitemap to Search Console *
Utilize Google Search Console for SEO Feedback
We won’t only use Google Search Console to store our sitemap information. This tool is a wonderful resource to help with Technical SEO.
- You can use the Speed(experiential) reports under Enhancements to find issues that are slowing down your site speed
- You can use the Coverage tab to discover pages that Google has problems crawling, as well as the reason they can’t crawl that page.
- You can use the Removal tab to request that URL’s be removed from Google’s search results, which is super helpful for spam.
You can learn more about how to use Google Search Console to aid in your SEO efforts here.
Some Final Technical SEO Tips
Here are some final Technical SEO tips to keep in mind:
- URL Structure: You should have a clear URL structure that makes sense to users, not just bots. That means you should have keywords in your URL’s, and they should have a logical sequence to them. Just make sure you redirect all pages if you alter your current URL structure (see the next bullet)
- 301 Redirects: Anytime you are changing the location of a page, or rearranging URL structure, you need to make sure you redirect your URL’s so that your pages don’t produce a 404 error. Learn more about redirects here
- https: Your site should be an https site (instead of an http site). This will help improve your rankings because it ensures that the data to and from your site is secure, which is good for customers! Find out how to get your site SSL certificate here
And with that, your WordPress Websites Technical SEO should be looking great!